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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Butterfly (review)

Music, sex, nature, romance! Oh, the sweet mysteries of life young Moncho (Manuel Lozano) will find himself awakening to in the summer of 1936. A sweet-faced little boy with a shy smile, so delicate and sensitive his mother calls him her “sparrow,” Moncho is taken under the wing of his gentle and wise schoolteacher, Don Gregorio (Fernando Fernán Gómez), a rumored atheist who is enjoying a brief window of freedom during the Spanish Republic, after the fall of the monarchy and before the rise of the fascists. In a world caught between superstition and reason, Don Gregorio seizes the opportunity to steer Moncho toward the latter and show him that the world is more complicated — and more beautiful — than he’d ever realized. The renowned Fernán Gómez gives a heartbreaking performance, especially as the film turns dark near its end, but it’s young Lozano who steals the show. A natural actor, his wide-eyed wonder at everything around him — whether it’s a street carnival in his small town or a field full of bugs and butterflies waiting to be explored — draws us in so that we can’t help but celebrate the exquisite joy of simply being alive along with him. A film of poignant beauty, with a warmly humanistic outlook, this is a wonderful illustration of how opening a child’s mind to science and reason will set him free forever.

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MPAA: rated R for a strong sex scene

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

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